Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

“Between a rock and a hard place”: Planning reform, localism and the role of the planning inspectorate in England

Boddy, Martin; Hickman, Hannah


Martin Boddy
PVC- Research and Enterprise

Hannah Hickman
Associate Professor in Planning Practice


Like many European countries, England saw the establishment in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century of regional-scale spatial planning. Radical reform of English planning following the Localism Act 2011 however saw the whole intermediate tier of regional planning stripped out of the national planning system along with detailed guidance and top-down targets for house-building at a local level. This had a major impact on the Planning Inspectorate, the agency responsible on behalf of government for approving local development plans. Reform left the Inspectorate fully exposed to the tensions and contradictions between top-down policy and local autonomy inherent under the new planning framework. Focussing on future levels of housing development, a key responsibility of local councils under the new framework, we examine the implications of reform for the Planning Inspectorate in practice. We draw on approaches to localism and planning theory, in particular the idea of ‘conditional localism’, in order to situate and understand these changes. The study was based on interviews with elite respondents in or close to the Planning Inspectorate together with documentary sources. Lack of previous work on the Inspectorate, coupled with their key role in the national planning system, reinforced by recent reforms, emphasises the significance of the study. The importance of such ‘land-use tribunals’ internationally, points to the study’s wider relevance. It provides, as well, a study of planning reform with relevance in a wider European context and suggests how recent contributions to the localism debate can help make sense of these changes.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 6, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 16, 2018
Publication Date Apr 16, 2018
Deposit Date Mar 5, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 16, 2019
Journal Planning Theory and Practice
Print ISSN 1464-9357
Electronic ISSN 1470-000X
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 198-217
Keywords Housing; Localism; Planning Reform; Planning Inspectorate
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Planning Theory and Practice on 16th April 2018, available online:
Contract Date Mar 5, 2018


You might also like

Downloadable Citations